Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL), an Arts and Education Council grantee, is partnering with Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, & Equity (CRE2) to host a two-night symposium exploring the canon of Black composers and the current reality of the Black experience onstage and behind the scenes. “Belonging in Opera: Learning from Our Past, Engaging with Our Future” will be led by Dr. Naomi André, professor at the University of Michigan and author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement.

The symposium will take place online on April 6 and April 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST, and will feature discussions and presentations from acclaimed scholars, artists, composers, and opera administrators. Across these two evenings, “Belonging in Opera” will explore the history of Black composers and the current and future landscape of Black creativity in opera and adjacent spaces.

“The classical music industry has long been grappling with the lack of equity in our field, from the under-programming of Black composers to the under-representation of Black leaders in our organizations. As we at Opera Theatre continue our learning journey, it is crucial for us to engage in a conversation about where we can go from here,” said Andrew Jorgensen, General Director.

“We are so grateful that leading musicologist Dr. Naomi André has convened this tremendous group of thought leaders in our industry. We are honored to present this symposium with our colleagues at Washington University; I am particularly grateful to Adrienne Davis, Co-director of the CRE2, and Tila Neguse, Assistant Director at the CRE2, for their dedication and commitment to helping us all learn and grow.”

Joining Dr. André for this series will be composers Anthony Davis and Damien Sneed; artists Nicole Cabell (soprano), Briana Hunter (mezzo-soprano), Will Liverman (baritone), and Morris Robinson (bass); leaders Afton Battle (General Director, Fort Worth Opera), Quodesia “Quo” Johnson (Education and Company Culture Manager, The Dallas Opera), and Marcia Sells (Chief Diversity Officer, the Metropolitan Opera); and scholars Todd Decker (Washington University), Lauren Eldridge Stewart (Washington University), Maya Gibson (University of Missouri), Kori Hill (University of North Carolina), Marcía Porter (Florida State University), and Louise Toppin (University of Michigan).

“As we work to make opera a welcoming space for all, we realize that inclusivity requires people from all corners of the industry — composers, singers, administrators, and scholars — talking to one another, widening our repertoire, and sharing perspectives around Black representation and experiences in opera,” said Dr. André. “By engaging multiple voices from the composer’s desk, Board rooms, administrative offices, the stage, and the classroom, we are seeking ways to reinvent how we think about and perform opera.”

The symposium is free to all and will be livestreamed on Opera Theatre’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Registration and additional information are available at ExperienceOpera.org/Belonging.